Even on the Slab, Wizards Show Signs of Life in Loss to Magic | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Even on the Slab, Wizards Show Signs of Life in Loss to Magic

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Updated: November 6, 2016

In the normal post-mortem for a loss, there are generally a myriad of symptoms that can be pointed to as the cause of death. Slicing the body open, a statistical doctor could point to missed free throws, a discrepancy in fast break points, or a decided rebounding disadvantage as combining factors in a team’s demise. A doctor might even look at the corpse and say, “No John Wall, this poor bastard never had a chance,” and return to the golf course to finish out the back nine.

However, for the Wizards, their 88-86 loss to the Orlando Magic can be attributed to one sole symptom—the malignant lack of production from their bench. A doctor called to the scene would take one look at their watch, glimpse briefly at the scoreboard, and solemnly pronounce the time of death at the exact time that either Marcus Thornton or Trey Burke entered the game off the bench.

How cancerous were the Wizards reserves to the chances of winning? Running under the backcourt of Thornton/Burke, the Wizards surrendered two 12 point leads to an Orlando team mostly devoid of elite shooters. Both players led the team in net minus, with Thornton clocking in at minus-13 and Burke an odious minus-15. Add to that the contributions of Jason Smith (minus-15) and the bench hemorrhaged away leads that had been built up slow and steadily by the starters.

If the second unit had simply been ineffective defensively, a physician might begin to look at other mitigating factors. But it is on the offensive end that their ineffectiveness to run anything representing a “play” that grounded the Wizards to a standstill. Most of the blame can fall onto Trey Burke’s shoulders, who has morphed from a field general at Michigan to a lesser version of Earl Boykins. Burke’s propensity to over-dribble and pound the rock into oblivion left many of his bench compatriots standing around looking listless during offensive sets. Even when Burke would find an open teammate, it would often come at the tail end of a broken play—with the end result being a contested shot.

The individual who was responsible for taking many of the contested shots? Markieff Morris, who will probably take a chunk of the blame for the loss due to missing a potential game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer, as well as failing to convert on easy chances throughout the fourth quarter. While it would be easy to point to opportunities Morris missed (and to an even greater Marcin Gortat, who appears strangely unwilling to dunk bunnies), it was Morris’ play throughout the first three quarters that kept the Wizards afloat. Morris led the Wizards with 18 points on 16 shots; Bradley Beal scored 15 points on 17 shots and Otto Porter 10 points on eight shots. At the end of every Burke dribble, the ball more often than not found its way to Morris’ hands. This partly explains his woeful 31.3 percent shooting on 5-for-16 field goals, but does little justice to the fact that alone among the starters he was able to salvage something from playing alongside the bench (which also contributed to him finishing minus-6).

The good news for the Wizards is that sometimes in death a cure is found. That cure appeared Saturday night in Tomas Satoranksy, who finished plus-13 and proved more than capable of serving as Wall’s ongoing understudy and as the starter on the second of back-to-backs, which Wall will not be playing in during the season’s early going. It doesn’t seem like a coincidence that bench players who were completely ineffective when playing with Burke suddenly became more effective with Satoransky running the ship. Kelly Oubre, floating like so much flotsam behind the arc, suddenly became offensively active. Andrew Nicholson was able to convert on easy putbacks thanks to Satoransky crashing the boards. Even Thornton—with the ball taken out of his hands and rendered a simple catch and shoot option—became a viable offensive threat.

This is not to say that Satoransky is a cure all. After the game, the Washington Post’s Candace Buckner reported ominous rumblings from the locker room, mostly Beal, who stated that Brooks “might start playing guys who want to play and guys who want to show up.” It’s uncertain of whose bow Beal is firing shots across, but his comments are reminiscent of when Josh Howard opined that some Wizards were on the team simply to collect a check.

Frankly, unless there is some sort of open fractiousness in the locker room, the Wizards woes can be blamed on bad personnel executing poorly and the frustrations of starting the season 1-4. The problems that Wizards coach Scott Brooks face are easily identifiable—he still needs to find some way to cobble together a rotation that limits the damage of his more ineffective bench options. But for once, in death, the Wizards have a reason to live again.

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Sean Fagan
Reporter / Writer/Gadfly at TAI
Based in Brooklyn, NY, Sean has contributed to TAI since the the dawn of Jan Vesely and has been on the Wizards beat since 2008. His work has been featured on ESPN, Yahoo and SI.com. He still believes that Mike Miller never got a fair shot.